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Turn a Love of the Outdoors into a Satisfying Career in Natural Resources Management

posted on Monday, November 5, 2018 in  College News

Career opportunities in Natural Resources Management are as varied as the environments where they are found. From forests to fisheries and everything in between, they share a common core value: a passion for nature.

It’s hard for P.J. Grine to imagine ever wanting to do anything else. The Strawberry Point native grew up loving the outdoors, though he didn’t immediately see that translating into a career. Fortunately, while on a visit to Hawkeye Community College, he listened to a suggestion from his mom.

“My mom knew my passion for the outdoors,” Grine said. “She kept bugging me to go in and talk to the head of the natural resources program.”

Grine agreed and met with then program advisor Terri Rogers. He was sold.

One of the key features of Hawkeye’s Natural Resources Management program is the extensive campus and community-based hands-on learning that helps prepare students for the workforce. For Grine, it was the perfect way to learn and he took advantage of every opportunity.

Throughout the year, Natural Resources Management students can be seen working on projects across the Cedar Valley, from assisting the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with upkeep at George Wyth State Park to helping relocate thousands of native mussels along the Cedar River with the Dennis Wendel Mussel Move Project.

In addition to local projects, students have the opportunity to go on an annual wilderness expedition to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. This spring, students will travel to Ouachita National Forest near Hot Springs, Arkansas, for Leave No Trace Master Educator Training.

Program advisor Ryan Kurtz is a strong advocate for taking learning outside the classroom, and he sees benefits beyond the hands-on experiences.

“It fosters a connection between students and potential employers,” Kurtz said. “It gives them exposure to some of the things they could do in the field, or potential career paths.”

The extensive fieldwork opportunities, coupled with small class sizes, helped Grine cultivate his passion. He earned his associate degree in 2013, then his bachelor’s degree in conservation management from Upper Iowa University in 2015. The same month, he started working for North Dakota Parks and Recreation.

Grine is currently a full-time park ranger and assistant manager at Turtle River State Park, where his responsibilities vary from day to day and season to season. It’s part of what he loves about working in the natural resources field. “I can’t thank my instructors at Hawkeye Community College enough,” he said. “I am proud to say that hard work and determination really do pay off, and I truly do love my job.”

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